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Harris sought state money for GOP operative

By S.V. Dáte, Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Thursday, August 23, 2001

TALLAHASSEE -- Secretary of State Katherine Harris tried to have the state pay $12,000 to a Republican operative who she has maintained was a volunteer working out of her Capitol office during last year's presidential recount.

"You provided support to the Dept. of State and should be paid," Harris wrote to consultant Adam Goodman on April 9. "I already started trying to work on reimbursement/payment for the recount time."

She was responding to an April 3 note from Goodman suggesting that she pay him $20,000 from an as yet nonexistent campaign account for his work.

Harris repeatedly has said that both Goodman and J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich volunteered their time in the weeks following the disputed election, but correspondence obtained by The Palm Beach Post shows that, as recently as April, she contemplated paying Goodman. Ultimately, neither he nor Stipanovich got paid.

Goodman, a Tampa consultant who worked for Harris in her previous campaigns, wanted $4,000 per month for the five months starting November 2000. In an April 3 note, he told Harris, who is considering a run for Congress from her Sarasota hometown, he didn't mind waiting until the end of the spring legislative session, when "fundraising begins in earnest under a new entity."

"We've enjoyed a tremendous experience, and opportunity, together. Now, let's firm up the terms of our association and continue to rock the world," Goodman wrote.

While Harris said she wanted to pay Goodman, she told him she didn't think the money should come from her or a campaign account. "It was not for me personally nor for a campaign," Harris wrote Goodman. "Consequently, I do not believe I should have to pay (raise the $$) for it when it was for the govt."

Goodman on Wednesday said that it was not determined whether the "new entity" would be Harris's still non-existent congressional campaign account or a political action committee she formed in February with Goodman to promote election reform around the country.

The group, American Values in Democracy Project, Inc, or AVID, was voluntarily dissolved a month later, on March 23 records show.

In any event, Goodman said he did not press his request for payment and ultimately decided he was better off remaining a volunteer.

"I just let it drop. I assume she did, too," he said.

Harris, who is vacationing with her husband in his native country of Sweden, could not be reached Wednesday.

Agency spokesman David Host said he was not able to contact her Wednesday. In her absence he acknowledged that Harris had looked into paying Goodman.

"Both Secretary Harris and Mr. Goodman agreed that the latter's role as a friend and adviser outweighed all other considerations," Host said, explaining why Goodman was not paid out of the state treasury.

GOP operatives in the Capitol

The role of Goodman and Stipanovich was revealed in a July New York Times article which detailed their access to a "war room" set up in a conference room of Harris's Capitol suite.

Critics, particularly Democrats, have said it was inappropriate for Harris -- herself a former co-chair of George W. Bush's campaign in Florida -- to seek the advice of partisan political consultants when she was supposed to be acting in the interest of all Florida voters, not just Republican voters during the weeks following the November presidential vote.

Harris has countered that both men merely helped her handle media requests and write her public statements, but did not give her partisan political advice. She has also stressed that both were unpaid volunteers and did not receive any compensation from the state.

But in her April 9 reply to Goodman, she wrote: "As we discussed in DC -- You said $12,000. I am not trying to be weird about this because I want to pay you what you deserve, but they have been working on this since I returned. Now you say $20,000. I am confused -- they will be, too. This is a delicate matter."

It is unclear in the correspondence who the "they" were that Harris referred to.

Stipanovich, a former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Bob Martinez and a campaign strategist to both Gov. Jeb Bush and Harris, said Tuesday he never broached the topic of a payment with Harris. "Wasn't paid. Didn't ask. Didn't occur to me," he said Wednesday.

Goodman, who worked for Harris as a paid adviser in both her 1994 election to the state Senate and her 1998 campaign for Secretary of State, on Wednesday called the discussion of payment for the recount period "inadvertent."

He said the issue came up because Harris wanted to compensate him for his work. "She had asked me: What would be a fair offer?"

He said he replied with the April 3 memo outlining a proposed payment schedule, which would include $4,000 a month plus expenses from April into the future to "continue to hand-hold certain media and press VIPs -- in coordination with your soon-to-be-hired press aide -- to maximize our opportunities."

After further discussions, however, Goodman said he had a change of heart. "Upon reflection, it was understood that I best remain in that original (volunteer) position," he said.

State records confirm that neither Goodman nor Stipanovich has received any payments from the treasury in the past year.

Candidate for Congress?

Harris, 44, is considering a run for the congressional seat held by Sarasota Republican Dan Miller -- a race that both Democratic and Republican officials say she would likely win thanks to her new-found celebrity.

Her role in last year's election gave her numerous interviews on national television and a loyal following among conservative Republicans who credit her for putting Bush in the White House with a series of rulings that favored him over Democratic opponent Al Gore.

She returned to the headlines last month thanks to The Times article, which reported that Harris' lawyers said the computers Goodman and Stipanovich used had essentially been wiped clean -- a possible violation of Florida's public records law. Harris' office later recanted that story and, after initial resistance, allowed a media consortium including The Post to hire a nationally known data recovery company to examine the computers.

That review found hundreds of documents that had been deleted, including a political speech written by a Harris press aide in early 2000 endorsing George W. Bush for president as well as draft memos of a public statement that showed her position shifting over a span of hours from one that favored Gore to one that helped Bush.

Democratic officials say that Harris's presence as a candidate anywhere in Florida will help Democratic candidates raise money and turn out voters all over the state, but concede that no Democrat is likely to defeat Harris for a congressional seat in as Republican an area as Sarasota.

When a formal candidacy is announced, Goodman said Wednesday he once again will be part of it. "I fully expect to be part of Katherine's team," he said.